H STREET OVERVIEW
H Street marks the southern tip of the Foggy Bottom Historic District. If you were standing on H Street and looking south prior to the 1950s, you would have seen a very different view than you will see today. It would have been dominated by the Washington Gas Light Company's gas works, including its huge round gas holding tanks and smoke-emitting coal gasification plant. Other nearby industries included breweries, cement plants, and lime kilns. Industry closed down in the 1950s, making the neighborhood a more desirable place to live. In time the Watergate and other modern apartments and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts replaced the old industries.
Built in the 1850s, the Washington Gas Works facilities dominated the skyline (and the smell) of the western part of Foggy Bottom. The Heurich Brewery was another massive facility that operated from 1895-1956. The Abner-Drury Brewery at 25th and F Street also operated from 1898 to 1938. Other industries included cement plants and lime kilns. But the area also hosted The Watergate Inn, a popular Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant known for its pop-overs. Nearby was Pete's Irish bar, and its frequently visiting goat that lived at a nearby riding stable. And after the Heurich Brewery closed, the Arena Stage theater presented shows at its hospitality reception room until their new theater opened in southwest D.C. The current Arena Stage recalls this heritage through its "Old Vat Room" theater.
After the gasworks closed down in the 1940s, the first project to go up was the Potomac Plaza Co-op in 1957 (2475 Virginia Ave.). The redevelopment project was originally planned to reach the Potomac River and rival New York's Rockefeller Center, including a skating rink and a yacht basin. That plan did not work out, so the developers sold the southern part of the property to the builders of the Watergate Complex. The Watergate residences, offices, and hotel opened in phases from 1965-1971. Famous Watergate residents included Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Robert Dole, and Placido Domingo.
Beyond the Watergate Complex is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, completed in 1971, on the site of the Heurich Brewery. The statue of Mexican President Benito Juarez gives its name to the traffic circle. It was installed in 1969 and was a gift from Mexico, in return for U.S. gift of a statute of President Abraham Lincoln y President Lyndon Johnson. Behind President Juarez is the Saudi Arabian Embassy, which was originally constructed for the Peoples Life Insurance Company in 1959.
Foggy Bottom Gas Works (Washington Post)
Washington Post article
President Juarez of Mexico and Watergate (F. Leone 2022)
H St and surrounding area (D. Vogt 2022)
Heurich Brewery (Washington Post)
The Water Gate Inn (1950s)